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Landmark Case Redefines Corruption in California

In a case legal experts say will redefine public corruption, two former California government officials were convicted on Tuesday of misappropriating taxpayer money, paying themselves inflated salaries, and doing little work in return. The LA Times has the story:

During the month-long trial, prosecutors used a novel legal argument that Lynwood officials broke the law by accepting tens of thousands of dollars in stipends for sitting on city commissions that appeared to do little, if any, work—an arrangement Deputy Dist. Atty. Sean Hassett called “clearly a scam.”

The added pay boosted the part-time council members’ income from less than $10,000 a year to as much as $112,000 in one year for Louis Byrd and $72,000 for Fernando Pedroza, prosecutors said. . . .

“This is a violation of the public trust, and that is most disturbing to this court,” Superior Court Judge John T. Doyle said as he ordered the two men into custody.

Public officials across the country take notice: cheating taxpayers is becoming an increasingly dangerous game.

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  • dearieme

    That may be the first good news on the financial front in years.

  • Mick The Reactionary


    “Public officials across the country take notice: cheating taxpayers is becoming an increasingly dangerous game.”


    Prof Mead, here on Earth we have lotteries. One is more likely to win big money in CA lottery than to be convicted for cleverly stealing from taxpayers.

    In fact the only lesson one can learn here is this:

    Be smart when stealing and you will be fine.

    Chicago Mayor for Life Richard J. Daley (a very smart crook) has died in office after 21 years. There was a number of stupid crooks in the office in quick succession.
    Establishment soon got tired of continued scandals, FBI investigations and a few jail terms.
    A new smart crook, Richard M. Daley, the son, was brought in, served 22 years and retired.

    Was replaced by another smart crook, Rahm Emanuel. Pigs will fly before Daley or Emanuel will answer for their shenanigans.

    Political corruption, another area where high IQ is at premium.

  • Jim.

    Good for them.

    I wonder if shareholders will get a similar ability to take on board members who contribute little or nothing?

    One caveat, though… what sort of damage do you suppose could be done by political hacks who engage in mindless busy-work to “justify” their salaries?

    It’s enough to make your skin crawl, just contemplating it. Best to cut back the number of committees and studies and other such government artifacts, to solve the whole problem.

  • Anthony

    “Public officials across the country take notice: cheating taxpayers is becomuing an increasingly dangerous game.”

    WRM, what should be rationally determining in judging politicians is the set of propositions they are willing to implement in action sans lobbying (of all types). The point is craft and corruption appears to be culturally baked into political system; impecunious men who become career oriented politicans recognize the ditheriness of the electorate and begin to practice public entrepreneurship – betraying their true responsibilities to achieve personal accomodation.

  • Juanito Cabrone

    This is marginally different from former California legislators (including their family and their staff) sitting on State of California Boards and Commissions.

  • Corlyss

    I wonder how the well-run modern administrative state paradise of California differs markedly from the cesspool of corruption that is Sicily? Just an idle thought . . .

  • ThomasW

    I’m not sure I can agree with the general praise of this action. The proper answer is for people to turn out the politicians who are doing nothing for too much money. Having the courts do it, and as a criminal case, raises a dangerous precedent.

    In most jobs, if an employee is incompetent, the worst result is to be fired. Here we see politicians prosecuted criminally for not doing enough work to justify the salary. How should a prosecutor decide that a politician is getting too much money for the job? Do we need a commission to decide the “fair” compensation for each political office?

    Add some political motivation to the prosecutions, and a whole new corrupt system can come into play. If the opposition party takes control of a city, just initiate a prosecution because they’re paid too much.

    Sorry, I’d rather leave this to the political process, flawed though it might be.

  • Bruno Behrend


    The people are too busy, harassed, taxed, and regulated to have much of a say. They all stood by while this happened.

    Here in IL, it is nearly the same. Municipal elections take place in early Spring in off years, when 5-8% of the registered voters show up – the most interested and bought off voters, that is.

    We need term limits, spending limits, and a healthy dose of other “anti-democratic” devices to protect the people from their own boredom and from their complicity in this state of affairs.

    Here in IL, we need “private prosecutions” of this kind of misconduct. Here, there is no state’s atty who would go after the political power base that elected them.

    I could make the case that IL is no longer a representative republican form of government. It’s a kleptocracy run by 5-10 political families. It’s closer to feudalism than consent of the governed.

    Tar and feathers, prosecution, and retaliation is more effective than elections, and I’m only half kidding. CA and IL are the walking dead. Bring baseball bats.

  • Paddy Bauler

    Fine points Mr. Behrend. But two questions.

    First, when was a “representative republican form of government” ever a part of the social compact in Chicago? My understanding of the deal, epitomized by Daley I, is this: we’ll tolerate a high level of corruption, crime, and incompetence in exchange for leaders who will keep Chicago from turning into Detroit or Cleveland. Voting for mayor is typically a choice between a mildly corrupt, mildly competent machine master, with his merry band of petty thieves, semi-civilized relatives, and punks in tow, and a bunch of wingnuts who threaten to run the city into the ground. The problem, of course, is that we’ve suffered from more than mild corruption and less than mild competence lately.

    That dovetails into the second question, which you yourself raise: who’s going to bring these prosecutions? We’ve had lots of them lately, and they have one thing in common. Whether its the Feds or the State, the guy in the docket is some low level flunky or a past-his-due-date scalp, but never the real brokers. That’s part of the deal too. Every once in a while, there will be guys who go too far, or a little hue and cry among the peasants, and we’ll need a public hanging. So, a few guys will be sacrificed, some new political names will be made by the reformers, and then business will go on as usual.

    Bottom line: no news here. Illinois’s best hope is that it will be invaded by Indiana and Mitch Daniels will be elevated as procounsel.

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